Beauty Within and Without - Week IX Reading Group May 3, 2010 18:39:39 GMT -5
Post by Erica Chan on May 3, 2010 18:39:39 GMT -5
-EXTRACT FROM ‘BEAUTY WITHIN AND WITHOUT’-
Taken from Feminism is for Everybody: Passionate Politics by Bell Hooks.
Feminist struggle to end eating disorders has been an ongoing battle because our nation’s obsession with judging females of all ages on the basis of how we look was never completely eliminated. It continues to grip our cultural imagination. By the early ‘90s many women were moving away from feminism. While all females reaped the benefits of feminist interventions, more and more females were embracing anew sexist-defined notions of beauty. Individual women who had been in their early 20s when contemporary feminist movement began were moving into their late 40s and 50s. Even though feminist changes in the way we see female bodies have made aging a more positive experience for women, facing the reality of aging in patriarchal society, particularly the reality of no long being able to biologically bear children, led many women to adopt anew the old sexist notions of feminine beauty.
Nowadays, more than ever before in our nation’s history, a huge number of heterosexual women past 40 were and are still single. Finding themselves in competition with younger women (many of whom are not and will never be feminist) for male attention they often emulate sexist representations of female beauty. Certainly it was in the interest of a white supremacist capitalist patriarchal fashion and cosmetic industry to re-glamorize sexist-defined notions of beauty. Mass media has followed suit. In movies and on television, ad in public advertisements images o reed-thin, dyed-blonde women looking as though they would kill for a good meal have become the norm. Back with a vengeance, sexist images of female beauty abound and threaten to undo much of the progress gained by feminist interventions.
Tragically even though females are more aware than ever before of the widespread problem of life-threatening eating disorders in our nation’s history, a large group of females from the very young to the very old are still starving themselves to be thin. The disease of anorexia has become a commonplace theme, a subject in books, movies, etc. But no dire warnings work to deter females who believe their worth, beauty, and intrinsic value will be determined by whether or not they are thing. Today’s fashion magazines may carry an article about the dangers of anorexia while bombarding its readers with images of emaciated young bodies representing the height of beauty and desirability. The confusing message is most damaging to those females who have never claimed a feminist politics. Yet there are recent feminist interventions aimed at renewing our efforts to affirm the natural beauty of female bodies.
Girls today are often just as self-hating when it comes to their bodies as their pre-feminist counterparts were. While feminist movement produced many type s of pro-female magazines, no feminist-oriented fashion magazine appeared to offer all females alternative visions of beauty. To critique sexist images without offering alternatives is an incomplete intervention. Critique in and of itself does not lead to change. Indeed, much feminist critique of beauty has merely left females confused about what a healthy choice is. As a middle-aged woman gaining more weight than ever before in my life I want to work at shedding pounds without deploying sexist body self-hatred to do. Nowadays, in a fashion world, especially on the consumer side, where clothing that looks like its been designed simply for reed-thin adolescent girl bodies is the norm, all females no matter their age are being socialized to either consciously or unconsciously to have anxiety about their body, to see flesh as problematic. While we are fortunate that some stores carry beautiful clothing for women of all sizes and shapes, often this clothing is far more pricey than the cheaper clothing the fashion industry markets towards the general public. Increasingly today’s fashion magazines look like the magazines of the past. More and more bylines are by males. Seldom to articles have a feminist perspective or feminist content. And the fashions portrayed tend to reflect sexist sensibility.
These changes have been unacknowledged publicly because so many of the feminist women who have come to mature adulthood exercise their freedom of choice and seek healthy alternative models of beauty. However, if we abandon the struggle to eliminate sexist defined notions of beauty altogether, we risk undermining all the marvelous feminist interventions which allowed us to embrace our bodies and ourselves and love them. Although all females are more aware of the pitfalls and dangers of embracing sexist notions of female beauty, we are not doing enough to eliminate those dangers – to create alternatives.
Young girls and adolescents will not know that feminist thinkers acknowledge both the value of beauty and adornment if we continue to allow patriarchal sensibilities to inform the beauty industry in all spheres. Rigid feminist dismissal of female longings for beauty has undermined feminist politics. While this sensibility is more uncommon, it is often presented by mass media s the way feminists think. Until feminists go back to the beauty industry, go back to fashion, and create an ongoing, sustained revolution we will not be free. We will not know how to love our bodies as ourselves.